Recommended Reads for Remembrance Day
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. Over the course of the novel he suffers a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other–if only he can come out of the war alive.
The Soldier’s War by Richard van Emden
‘The Soldier’s War’ traces the Great War chronologically, taking stories from each year of the fighting and following the British Tommy through devastating battles and trench warfare to the armistice in 1918.
Remembrance by Theresa Breslin
1915 – Scotland. A group of teenagers from two families meet for a picnic, but the war across the Channel is soon to tear them away from such youthful pleasures. All too soon the horror of what is to become known as The Great War engulfs them, their friends and the whole village. From the horror of the trenches, to the devastating reality seen daily by those nursing the wounded, they struggle to survive. Nothing will ever be the same again. REMEMBRANCE is a powerful and engrossing novel about love and war, from the Carnegie Medal-winning author Theresa Breslin.
Eleven Eleven by Paul Dowswell
In the early hours of 11 November 1918, the agreement to end World War I is finally sealed but it will be several hours before the Armistice filters down the chain of command to the troops on the ground, and in the air – and a lot can happen in a few hours. As time ticks away, the lives of three young men, one English, one German and one American, collide as they fight to survive the final horrors of the war. This action-packed thriller combines historical detail with three very personal stories of courage, strength and tragedy, to produce a gripping and thought-provoking account of the final hours of a brutal conflict.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and Illustrated by Francois Place
Joey is a young farm horse, sold to the army at the beginning of the First World War. Through his eyes the reader experiences the devastation of the Western Front, his capture by the Germans and his entrapment in No Man’s Land. Joey’s tremendous courage touches soldiers of both armies; in turn, he experiences warmth and kindness amid the carnage of war, and homesickness for his old life on the farm. Morpurgo has approached this bitter conflict from an unusual and moving perspective, focusing on the valuable role that animals played throughout the war, and the dignity that both creatures and men showed in the face of suffering.
Where the poppies now grow by Hilary Robinson and Illustrated by Martin Impey
Written to mark the anniversary of the start of the First World War, this book is a touching tribute to honour all those who sacrificed so much for the sake of peace. The book is dedicated to the memory of the great uncles of Hilary and Martin who fell at the Somme in 1916. While the book is written for young children the artwork will have cross generational appeal.
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Faced with a choice between her harsh farming life and the seductive but distant world of books and learning, Chris Guthrie eventually decides to remain in her rural community, bound by her intense love of the land. However, the intervention of the First World War leaves her choice in tatters. Chris is now a widowed single mother: her farm, and the land it occupies, is altered beyond recognition—trees torn down, people displaced. But although the novel describes a way of life which is in decline, it also presents a strong image of hope. Chris adapts to her new world, displaying an intuitive strength which, like the land which she loves, endures despite everything. Sunset Song is a testament to Scotland’s agricultural past, to the world of crofters and tradition which was destroyed in the First World War. It is a powerful description of life in the first few decades of the century through the evocation of change and the lyrical intensity of its prose.
Wake by Anna Hope
Five Days in November, 1920. As the people of London await the arrival of the Unknown Soldier from France, three women are dealing with loss in their own way: Hettie, who dances for sixpence a waltz at the Hammersmith Palais; Evelyn, who toils at a lowly job in the Pensions Office; and Ada, a housewife who is beset by visions of her dead son. One day a young man comes to Ada’s door. He carries with him a wartime mystery that will bind these women together, and will both mend and tear their hearts.
All of the recommended titles can be borrowed from Wokingham Borough Libraries